We had a fantastic, amazing breakfast at a recommended place in Kinsale. Pancakes to die for. The bite I traded for of Mary Cate’s bacon was amazing, too. Then we caught the bus to Cork, and managed to catch the bus to Galway with no problems. These were both pretty nice (and surprisingly fast) rides. I’m in the depths of Mrs. Mike now, so I hardly noticed time passing. In Limerick, we were planning to just stay on the bus, but our driver pointed us in the direction of a direct bus that was about to leave. We caught this one with no problems, and arrived an hour earlier than expected.
Initially we went the total wrong way in search of the hostel. Either I really can’t read Google maps or Google maps is a liar. Anyway. The Tourist Information pointed us in the right direction. The hostel itself was pretty nice–probably just as nice as the one in Dublin, and nicer than the last place we stayed. We only had one other roommate, which was fantastic.
We got settled. I took a fast shower, then contacted my friend Stephen (who some readers will remember is studying in Galway this semester). We arranged to meet him outside of the Galway cathedral.
We set out and found it pretty easily. The cathedral itself was surprisingly beautiful. The stained glass was vibrant and lovely. (I have a weakness for colorful stained glass, have I mentioned that?) It reflected off the polished marble floors and cast the pews into bright oranges and reds… I love color.
After enjoying the cathedral for a bit, we went outside and found a nice park to sit in while we waited. I made some lists to remind myself of things I needed to do. Then it was back to the cathedral. We saw some friars in long brown robes. We played the game that goes, “Is that Stephen? No, I don’t think so. The back of his head looks like him. I’m not sure. No, it’s not. Why does every man look like Stephen?!” But Stephen arrived right on [Irish] time, so all was well.
We went to grab dinner at a fast food place (rather like a mall foodcourt). I had cheese fries which were delicious. It was a fun dinner. After that, we went to a pub in town to catch some trad music. Stephen was broke, and I offered to buy him a drink because he was all pitiful because I wanted to show my gratitude for him taking the time to escort us. (I don’t drink, btw, which Stephen knows). He was very perplexed by my offer, and wouldn’t let me.
Anyway, the music was great. Lots of fiddles this time, which was fun. At one point a very drunk old man approached Stephen and struck up conversation. At one point I looked over and Stephen and his drunken friend were talking about Stephen’s life plans, at another point they were talking about tourists, and near the end they were talking about shoes. I believe there was also a conversation about whether or not glasses would be a liability in a bar fight. Eventually the very drunk man asked Stephen to go get him another drink (and buy himself one, too). So apparently a drunk Irish man can buy the fellow a drink, but not me. Hmph!
(Side note, just for clarification: I could really care less. I just found the situation really funny.)
Mary Cate also got a drink. She had me hold her beer for like two minutes and afterwards both Stephen and her were laughing because apparently I hold beer in a hilariously wrong way. This is false. I hold beer like I’d hold anything else in a glass pint.
A few other choice things Stephen had to say in the course of the evening:
“My girlfriend left today. But she left me with her baggage. [points to Mary Cate and me]”
“[names some obscure history something. I nod] … You know what that is? No? Wow you have a really convincing knowing smile/nod.”
“I never know how Alyssa takes my humor because her laugh is so polite. But I’ve watched her really laugh and she laughs the same way. So I don’t know if she’s really laughing or politely laughing.”
Stephen: If Erika were here [motions to blank space beside him], she would say I don’t hate people.
Me: I love how Erika is an invisible presence beside us.
Stephen: She’s always a voice in my head. I can hear her now. [indicates to empty space above his shoulder]
Over all, it was a great time. We lingered in the square for a while just talking. Then Stephen left to study, and Mary Cate and I returned to the pubs. However, without a local [in everything but blood] guide/man person we weren’t really confident, and pubs full of drunk shouting guys were sort of intimidating. We ended up just going to McDonald’s for a soda and rest, then back to the hostel.
Day Twelve: Cliffs of Moher
We woke up and had everything packed in good time. Grabbed breakfast, checked out and had the guy at the desk direct us to the right bus station (which was literally next door, it turns out). We found the right bus really early, but settled in and got comfortable. Before long it had filled up and we were on the road.
We had decided the best way to see Cliffs of Moher (and some of the outlying area) was with Galway Tours Company. This did not disappoint. Our guide, Desmond, was the oldest tour guide of the company, and had been working for 19 year. He had really, really dry humor. It was fantastic. As we drove around, he’d point out stuff and tell stories and jokes to keep everyone entertained.
We stopped in a church with Celtic crosses. We stopped in a fairy fort (which was really cool). This was basically where a small town had been, and the people had built up a wall of dirt around it as protection. Now there’s a ring of raised ground with a fairy tree (covered in tissue) in the center. White daisies were blooming in the grass. The roots of the trees had grown over the raised mound, making a crisscross pattern. It was really beautiful. A pity there were so many other people there, ha.
We also stopped off at Poulnabrone, a burial site on the Burrens. It was a lot like the site I saw in Wales… but not as big, and with a lot more tourists. But it was cool to see, and it was fun to run around jumping from stone to stone on the Burrens.
After that, it was lunch time! We stopped in Doolin, in a nice pub. The food was super good and fast. Afterwards we poked around in some shops. Mary Cate got to talk with a music guy about Irish fiddle and I bought a few postcards.
From there we went to the Cliffs of Moher. It was pretty surreal, actually. They have almost everything blocked off, so you’re well away from the edge, just looking out. It felt like looking at a huge picture. It didn’t feel real. But it was beautiful, nonetheless. We went on the safe side first. Then we went to the dangerous side because the ranger told us that’s where we could see puffins. This side is technically on private property, and isn’t blocked off. More exciting and scary! We did find the puffins, but they were so tiny we couldn’t really see them.
After spending time up there, we went through some shops and then back to the bus. We were transfered to a different bus to get taken back to the small town where we were spending the night. (That was a horrific sentence.) An American on the bus offered Mary Cate some mead, which she apparently thought was quite good. The hostel is quite nice (though no luggage storage places, which is sort of weird). I asked the lady behind the desk about recommendations for trad music/dinner places, and she highly recommended a pub in Doolin where a really good band will be playing tonight (“You’d really love them! They’re all young men, and quite cute!” she told me with a laugh). She helped me get taxis set up to get us there and back. I’m excited, both for the music and because it’ll be good to get more trad in after not making it to more last night.
Edit: It was fantastic! We ended up hanging out at the pub for a good hour and a half before the music started. But this meant we were able to grab seats right in front of the band. They were really good (called Foolin in Doolin), a banjo + guitarish instrument + pipes combo. There were a lot of jigs, and a mournful ballad (that brought tears to my eyes, no lie) and a sweet lullaby. I closed my eyes a few times to just take it in. It was the sort of music where everything else vanishes, and it’s just you and the notes and your heartbeat and the stomping of the audience. It was definitely worth the trip, and was actually really stress relieving.
Tomorrow: Riding! Buses to Shannon! Flight to London! Train to Reading! Taxi to dorm! Repack! Sleep!